The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and creative agency Oberland approached Hornet to create a 45-second spot detailing how LLS can help people come to terms with the earth-shattering news of a cancer diagnosis. Hornet's own Natalie Labarre directed the spot. In her words, it was intended to be “a visual representation of what it’s like to have your life fall apart.” So, she made it literally fall apart with an unraveling of structures around the characters, a blurry focus, and a swirl of levitating objects. The message is that once LLS comes into the picture, these characters feel grounded again. Ultimately, the film is a heartfelt, soothing, beautifully-illustrated 2D animation that has a heavy, yet hopeful, tone.
Director Natalie Labarre
Production Co Hornet
Executive Producer Hana Shimizu
Development Producer Kristin Labriola
Producer Matt Creeden
Senior Editor Anita Chao
Production Coordinator Riley Spencer
Storyboard Artist Natalie Labarre, Sara Litzenberger
Character Designer Natalie Labarre
Environment Designer Natalie Labarre
Lead Animator Sami Healy, Sara Litzenberger
Animator Josh Brennan, Tyler DiBiasio, Ty Enos, Natalie Labarre, Seongjin Yoon, Hazel Zheng
Lead Compositor XiaoXiao Tang
Written by TAUBENBLAU
Courtesy of Extreme Music
VO Artist Jen Lawson
Client Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The elegant artwork and fluidity of the animation is what makes the spot so powerful. The visuals are strong, the design is delicate. Most of the animation is done digitally with a small amount of hand-drawn textures to add a hand-made warmth. The overall effect is one of evocative clarity. Not only is the LLS message delivered attractively; it's delivered effectively, too.
LLS is the largest nonprofit dedicated to fighting blood cancers. Since 1949, they’ve invested nearly $1.3 billion in groundbreaking research and also provided patient support to thousands of people. When they came to Hornet to help spread awareness about their cancer support services, it was a no-brainer that we would help. Cancer is never an easy subject to cover. But Natalie’s work brings with it a stoic, hopeful composure and warm sensibility that confronts the world-shaking difficulty of a cancer diagnosis with a determined air of optimistic fight—which is completely in line with the LLS mission and motto: "Beating Cancer Is in Our Blood."
Natalie Labarre is a director whose elegant animation style and sophisticated storytelling ability both belie her years. As an emerging director, some of what she brings to the table is what you might expect: a fresh voice, a contemporary sensibility. But beyond that, Natalie is an old-soul drilled in the old-school who thrives on blending worlds together: analog with digital, technique with story, original vision with inch-perfect execution.
In many ways, it’s this navigation of the overlaps that both sums up her background and defines her work today.
Natalie was raised in New York City by French parents. She learned French and English at the same time (and actually thought they were one language). She caught the storytelling bug at an early age after growing up on a healthy dose of Belgian comics and being hypnotized by the characters in Miyazaki and Sylvain Chomet films. From there, she knew she wanted to tell stories. So she attended the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York and majored in Animation—a curriculum she found surprisingly analog at the time. “My training was super traditional,” she says. “In 2009, everything was on paper. It was painting, paper, drawing by hand.”
It was in her spare time that she taught herself the more digital aspects of design. Though she never abandoned her roots. “Analog artwork has always been part of my work because that’s where I came from. I still try to integrate it the best I can and continue to push analog textures and painterly qualities into the digital design.”
In Fall 2014, Natalie joined Hornet as an Intern. The rest is history. And her particular history as “Natalie, the Director” is impossible to untwine from that of “Natalie, the Hornet Director.” After the internship, she freelanced as an animator with Hornet for three years. A two-year hiatus followed, in which she earned her MFA in Children’s Book Illustration at Cambridge School of Art and published a book titled Incredible Jobs You've (Probably) Never Heard Of. Then Hornet knew it was time to have her back. She joined as a full-time 2D animator in Spring 2018 and never looked back. Her hand-drawn painterly animations maturated into something admired by everyone around her. She graduated to the role of Art Director. And along the way she found time, inspiration, and freedom afforded by Hornet to test her directorial chops with critically acclaimed PSA films like Me Too - Daniela and LLS - Grace.
Words frequently used to describe her work are: elegant, evocative, warm, sophisticated, beautiful, illustrative, painterly. But what none of these words truly captures is her Midas-like touch. Every project Natalie works on seems to turn to gold. For lack of a better term, her work has a viral quality. From original Instagram animations that rack up more views than any other posts on Hornet’s Instagram profile to multiple films that have been shortlisted and screened at major festivals around the world—like Annecy, Ottawa, Manchester, ASIFA East, and shots - The Americas—Natalie has a style that, put simply, people love. Really, really love.